Antebellum houses open doors to scores of visitors on first day of Spring Pilgrimage

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

The first four houses on tour during this Spring Pilgrimage opened their doors Saturday morning to some of the biggest crowds in recent years.

Representatives of all four houses &045; Stanton Hall, Hawthorne, Elms Court and Longwood &045; reported ticket numbers in excess of 200, with Stanton Hall reporting a little more than 300.

&uot;We had 244 tickets, so compare that to last year, when we had 90 the opening day,&uot; said Carla Jenkins, who helped receive visitors at her parents’ house, Hawthorne.

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&uot;And we had people from Washington, D.C., Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Utah &045; people from all over,&uot; she said.

&uot;We had about 216 people come through &045; and that’s without a bus, except city bus,&uot; said Anna James of the antebellum house Longwood.

And while ending numbers for Saturday afternoon weren’t available, a steady stream of visitors could be seen entering antebellum houses such as Rosalie.

Spring Pilgrimage serves as the biggest tourist event of the year in an area whose economy depends heavily on tourism.

Although some said it’s still too early to tell why numbers were up, others said Saturday’s cloudless, mild weather was a big factor.

Pete Fife and Sharon Eaton, both of Baton Rouge, said the sunny day was one of the factors that led them to come up to Natchez for the afternoon.

Fife and Eaton weren’t the only ones up for a spur-of-the-moment trip, however.

Bobby and Dianne Pearson decided to drive in from their home in Meridian.

&uot;I printed some information from the Internet, and we came on this morning,&uot; said Dianne Pearson, walking up to Rosalie from the nearby Parsonage, another antebellum house on tour Saturday afternoon.

Her verdict? The houses &uot;are just beautiful.&uot;

Much work goes into cleaning and organizing houses for tour. Albert Metcalfe, owner of The Parsonage, said his wife, Gay, has worked for months getting the house ready for Pilgrimage visitors.

&uot;She started in December and was up ’til 12:30 the night before doing flowers,&uot; Albert Metcalfe said.